BLISS: When we think of excess, overindulgence comes to mind, yet your images work up the viewer and makes them want more. What does XCESS mean to you in terms of your brand?
XCESS STUDIO: It’s just a name. I would have changed it but it seems too late now. The work has taken a sexy, sporty direction over the years. Now I see it’s a look that’s being done with many other photographers.
B: Your work is very broad in appeal in that you do head shots, fashion, and editorial photos, but you also cover erotica. Have you always been such an eclectic artist?
XS: I can’t stay in one place at one time.
B: A few of your models are very familiar to our readers, like John Ryan, but they have not been displayed as boldly as they are in your work. Each of them exhibits a clear comfort in these sensual poses, which is a reflection on you as a photographer. How do you create this mood with the men you photograph?
XS: It’s a process like any other. Each model is different. I simply go over what we’ll do and take it from there. How it evolves depends on the moment.
B: Many photographers exhibit a certain style and props or locations pop up in many of their images. There’s a hallway that many of your models have been featured in. Is this a signature look for you?
XS: These spaces come out of necessity. The hall has great natural lighting and just the right amount of architectural detail.
B: You do not shy away from full on sexuality, including erections. How do you prepare your models for these shots?
XS: They simply happen naturally. It’s up to the model.
B: Have you ever worked with a model that was initially uncertain or unwilling to do these types of images?
XS: Sure, yet they surprise themselves in the process of the shoot.
B: There are models that like my own work but are under the impression that they have to take their clothes off simply because I have nudes in my port. In a few cases, I had to actually reassure them that nudity was not a necessity. Have you encountered this situation?
XS: Yes, they tend to focus on what stands out.
B: The other impression is that an erection negates the artistic aspects of a photo. How do you address this misconception?
XS: Art is subjective and means something different to each individual. Studying art history and the trajectory it has taken may shed some light on where things are going.
B: Very few people can just pick up a camera and start shooting erotic nude images. There is always a journey or progression to that point. When did you first get interested in photography and what types of images were you shooting?
XS: It seems you too are hung up on the nudes. I shoot everything in my path that appeals to me. I’ve always had an eye for it and have been a natural at composition and concept. I’ve learned to work with models over the years to make them look their best.
B: I’m not hung up on the nudes, but these types of images are often a focal point in BLISS, if the profile is of a photographer who works in the medium, and the process surrounding such shoots is one aspect that the readers are, naturally, curious about.
Where do you find you models? Have you ever approached someone on the street?
XS: Mostly online or word of mouth.
B: Much of my own inspiration comes from admiration of other artists. Do you have any favorites and/or influences? If so, what is it about these photographers that speaks to you?
XS: My earlier photographs were often cropped, horizontal and asymmetrical. That has changed over time.
B: If a model or another photographer is looking at your work, what perception would you like them to come away with?
XS: That men as are as sexy as women are commonly portrayed in our society.
B: As much as people love the final result, there is always a curiosity regarding how a particular image came to life. Can you describe what a typical shoot is like?
XS: With a new model, the first hour of shooting (after clothes, hair and make-up) is focused on coaching models on facial expression and body posture. Then we shoot using the clothing and props we have decided upon and let the shoot evolve from there. Part of the fun is not knowing where a shoot is going.
B: We have all worked with models that are fantastic in their photos but not so compelling in the personality department. Have you ever worked with someone that was so difficult that you would not work with again? Obviously, you don’t have to give names.
XS: Of course. It’s the same in every working environment.
B: There are also models that have all the physical attributes but are unable to project that to the camera. How do you guide these models to achieve the image?
XS: I focus on the positive and exploit that in the photos to make models look their best. For example, if a model looks great smiling but not as much when serious, then I will mainly shoot them smiling.
B: Like parents, we shouldn’t necessarily have favorite models, but we all do. Is there a particular one that fills this role for you?
XS: Any model that is genuinely a nice person is great by me. I enjoy working with models that are interested in the process, that love posing for the sake of posing and want to have a good time. Models that are too preoccupied with what they are going to get in the end, actually often leads to poor photos. It’s a partnership between a model and a photographer. Both have to be present to what is happening in the moment.
B: What are the physical requirements you look for in a model? Do you have a specific type?
XS: I like models of all ethnicities. Still looking for a Native American.
B: One of the things I love most about your work is that there is something for everyone, regardless of personal taste. I applaud that you feature all ethnicities. Do you feel like this is lacking in the ports of other male image photographers?
XS: We all gravitate towards one thing or another.
B: You’ve worked with Turk Mason, who was also featured in a special edition of BLISS that focused solely on him. What was that experience like?
XS: It was fun. We shot out of doors on a hiking trail. Working outdoors is hit or miss depending on the light and the weather. I remember it being mid-day. I prefer shooting in the afternoon.
B: Is there a model that you have not worked with that is on your wish list?
XS: I don’t know until I meet them. Personality is where it’s at in the end.
B: In addition to photography, you also offer retouching services. Do you enjoy the editing process?
XS: Yes, retouching is a lot of fun. Transforming a model during and after a shoot is what I enjoy the most. Editing is laborious, yet choosing the right images from a shoot is very important.
B: These days, it is easy to manipulate a photo, as well as the person in the photo, with incredible results. Do you think that photoshop has created opportunities for guys who might normally be passed over to get into the field of modeling?
XS: Sure, if they are doing print work.
B: You prefer natural light, as well as natural looking results. Is this something that models seek out when working with you?
XS: Models that have worked in only studios seem to want to balance their portfolios with shoots done in natural light. It’s a challenge working with sunlight because it is constantly changing but I do my best work in it. I prefer working in the afternoon.
B: I’ve discovered that many of these guys who most of us would describe as physical specimens of beauty are intensely insecure about their looks. Is this true for you as well?
XS: It’s human nature.
B: If a guy approached you about getting into modeling, what advice would you give him?
XS: To gain experience by working with different photographers. Then work with a photographer repeatedly. Become each other’s muse. Working with one person over a period of time can lead to some amazing results. You don’t know until you do it.
©2011 – Sean Dibble
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